The Delight Of Being Needed

Say what you like about the delights of sex, drugs, rocks and roll, or the 1953 Standard motor car – or about family and friendship and little bluebirds chirping – there is nothing quite as good as being needed.

It quiets the mental worm that gnaws at us; why are we here? Even if for only a short period of time we are here to help.

And it doesn’t really matter if we succeed. The thing is, we were called on. Even if we make a sad hash of whatever we do and make matters infinitely worse, the need was there and it was us that was needed.

This was the basic drive that made Boy Scouts stand at street corners and eye off old ladies. We were priming ourselves to swoop and help them across the road. As we got older and progressed from Boy Scouts to scouting for girls we used this early training on the street corners. We were extremely vigilant for a chance to help younger women into bars and into our cars. There were no merit badges on offer but we occasionally had things pinned on us.

Make Small Talk

Being a social creature is hard work for some of us. We dwell largely in isolation – in my case within a loving household – and we encounter others on a more distant basis. Hardly anyone is a mortal enemy, but by the same token, there are few extremely close friends. Most people are one or two steps removed from this core contact.

Do not be sad or disapproving of this…above all don’t regard it as unnatural. Moray eels have few drinking buddies but live perfectly adequate lives. And no-one feels bad about moray eels.

The thing is, we do venture out occasionally and we meet other people. I don’t mean in the wrong lane in the car park – this is not uncommon in a suburb with SUV’s. I mean at parties, meetings, and workplaces. We need to communicate with them but we may have lost the skill of doing it through long inattention. This Covid 19 year is particularly likely to distance us, if we are lucky.

What do we say when we do meet – 6 feet apart? The safest conversation of all is small talk. Here’s a list of topics and intros to get you going:

a. What about the weather, eh?

This will start a banal exchange that can be broken at any point if someone comes in with a plate of snacks. Feel free to ask if it’s hot enough or cold enough for you.

If you are in New Zealand substitute the word “climate ” for “weather “. Mentioning wethers in New Zealand can start a whole different conversation and you may be startled at the turns it can take – particularly if the Kiwi is the romantic type.

b. What about those Knicks, eh?

Apparently there is a basketball team called the Knickerbockers and people are interested in seeing them throw orange balls through hoops. If they were called the G-strings I could pay attention, but as it is I can throw orange balls through a hoop in the back yard myself so watching professionals do it is pointless.

Professionals in G strings would rivet the attention, mind.

c. What about that election, eh?

Well there’s always an election in the offing, no matter where you live. It may be honest and fair or not – it makes no difference  – because whoever you are talking to has the correct political opinion anyway and is either elated or incensed by the whole thing. Just wind them up, let them go, and nod sagely every 30 seconds. You will gain a reputation as an astute political expert.

Don’t get caught turning your hearing aid off.



When Someone Is Full Of It

You’ll meet people from time to time who are full of it.

The ” it ” may be knowledge, opinion, bullshit, malice, love, or salted caramel ice cream. You can recognise the condition by the sight, sound, and smell of them. The fact that you can see their problem means you have a problem. The problem is problems demand solutions  – and we are fools enough to try to provide them.

In truth, any overweening thing in someone else is still largely in them. The overweening portion is just the foam coming out of the top. You can generally ignore the foam, but if you seek to open up the rest of them you may have more trouble than you can handle.

Someone is arrogant? Well, that’s their character and their problem.

As long as that arrogance does not take money out of your pocket or skin off your nose, you can leave them stuffed with it. If anything, it acts as a good counterpoint to your own gentlemanly or ladylike behaviour. You look good beside them.

Someone is full of political opinion? It doesn’t match your own? Fine.

You can still exercise as much political power as they can every time there is an election and your weapon aon the field of battle is the same as theirs; a pencil stub in a cardboard booth. They may choose to bray their vote but your private one counts just as much  – pencils are silent.

Someone is religious and you’re not…or irreligious and you are? Relax.

Reflect that neither of you know whereof you speak in any real or scientific sense. You both commenced and will eventually both cease…and the sun has risen in the east and set in the west  all that time without your help.

The only time when you might be wise to interfere is when someone is full of sadness. You might not be able to relieve it entirely but it’s a good thing to try a little. Sometimes this is an active thing and sometimes it is passive. Sometimes just leaving makes others feel better…

Dead Quiet

At the start of the current Viral Follies I noted a series of intense postings on social media from friends who wanted to educate us – to the dangers, what to do, how the world would be…

These seem to have disappeared, and I am curious. We live in a state that has had a very small Covid impact so far. So the very worst conclusion – that the social media experts have died from it – is not likely to be correct. Lord save us that this doesn’t happen to them in the future. But why are they silent?

Are they confident that official pronouncements are now sufficient to alarm and depress the population – and their own efforts would be superfluous? Or do they defer to those who have the official figures and can post them daily?

Have they been silenced? Some of them work in areas that spin closer to the virus than others…but they may have been told to not post on social media for some reason.

Have they lost interest? Have they decided that the dumb can die and the canny survive? I should not approve of that, but I do. Washing the dregs out of the pot occasionally means a cleaner social soup. But I wish to be able to decide who is dregs and who isn’t.

Don’t worry – if you are reading this and approve of me, you’ll be saved and washed clean. Promise.

” I’m Just A Sex Object To You…”

No, Dear, you’re not. Not any more. Not for a long time. Not since you found Facebook.

I fully admit that I did think of you as a sex object – and treasured the sight, sound, and smell of you upon that basis. I longed to add feel to the list… but that was before I was presented with your posts on the electronic screen – in between the phishing memes and the advertisements for perfumed stump pullers. Once I could contemplate your thoughts and explore the workings of your mind, I changed my regard for you.

Now I do not look upon you you as a sex object. I regard you as a floating object.

You float between whichever political pressure group has most traction at the time. Between who has grabbed the national television coverage for the last five minutes and who will grab it for the next. Your thoughts are precious – as much for their virtue as for their rarity. And I long for the day when you will feel successful and triumphant – and will feel no more need to complain.

Like nirvana, armageddon, or the end of the works on the Mitchell Freeway, I never really expect to see this state of affairs blossom. But I need something to pray for.


” Young Fellow…”

It’s quite common when you are a child to be addressed as ” young fellow “. It’s accurate, not too familiar, and generally not said with any contempt.

Reel on to your senior years – the ones past 60 – and see if you are as happy with the salutation. I get it occasionally from someone who is trying to be familiar but who has not yet established contact. Like the shop owner who addresses me as ” young fellow ” when he is patently younger than myself, and a perfect stranger. He wants my custom but courts it strangely.

I do not react – I never react to it – but I remember it, and mark the shop down slightly. I spend less, if at all.

Note that people who are my same age and are close friends may use it – or any other greeting – freely. In my hobby club we are all of an age and no-one objects to being referred to as old. Indeed no-one bats a wrinkled eyelid at being addressed as ” shithead “. We know our friends and can trade insults freely.

” Old Fellow ” is nearly as bad in a commercial setting. ” Sir ” or ” Madam” are perfectly good salutations in formal society and they can be used with respect everywhere. Age need not be mentioned.

Always Rely Upon Yourself

Except when it becomes necessary to fix blame – then reach out to others.

It is as well to make a note of the characters of people you meet – both on a long-term and short-term basis. When you assess each person be fair and analytical – do not lie to yourself. Place each person accurately in their particular category.

How you choose to classify people is your own affair, but the following is a pretty sound suggesting from the BGA:

a. Honourable and resilient. These people can be trusted to do the right thing for the right reasons. Reserve them for when you need help that doesn’t ask for payment.

b. Shallow and facile. These people can be relied upon for nothing that doesn’t directly reflect upon themselves. Don’t despise them for this – you can manipulate them into many situations that others would baulk at.

c. Timid and fearful. Most useful to fasten blame upon. With only the faintest layer of guilt, they will bear away massive responsibilities.

d. Devious and untrustworthy. These people are the most loyal and open of creatures…as long as you look at what they say and listen to what they show you. They are never sincere, but that makes them predictable…and useful. Throwing them under the tram car wheels is always a pleasure.

e. Stupid and gullible. No-one is so stupid nor gullible that they cannot be a valuable member of society. Someone has to enter the darkened kitchen in the horror film and these are the people whom Nature has formed for the task. Honour them, but stay out of splatter range.

f. People exactly like yourself. You must make your mind up at the start whether you wish to mate with them or kill them outright. There is no middle ground.


As Opposed To What?

I shall set up my small wood lathe and turn a truncheon out of hardwood. Sanded, sealed, and polished, with a small brass plaque bearing the title of this essay; ” As Opposed To What? “. I shall carry it with me wherever i go. And when someone tries to tell me, sell me, or smell me, I shall strike them with it.

The number of times I do this will depend on how repetitive they are in their plaint.

All day long I read advertisements from people outside my reach. The newspaper, computer screen, and social media are always telling me what to think or what to buy. I can do nothing about this save binning the rags, blocking the posts, and snoozing the monomaniacs. But when they approach me in person I will have my trusty truncheon o’ cynicism handy in my pocket. As Mae West might have put it…it isn’t a pistol but I’m still glad to see you.

Every shill who wants to extract a shilling – every zealot who wants me as an acolyte – every fellow traveller who wants me as a useful idiot – will be fair game for the T 0′ C. I shall invite them to join the club by the most direct means…

Now, what was it you wanted to tell me?

The Smile On Voltaire’s Face

For many years I’ve visited Melbourne – sometimes in the summer – sometimes in the winter. Sometimes for both seasons on one day ( plus the Apocalypse and Free Pizza Night. Melbourne weather is like that… ) I’ve often gone to visit a friend. He lives in the NGV on the second floor.

François-Marie Arouet was in the word business long before me…and as it happens, will probably be there long after I am gone. That is the quality of his thinking and writing. I say ” is ” rather than ” was ” because so much of what he wrote and published is still current. Indeed a great deal of his admonishment to tolerance and sensible thinking is still for the future…

Quite what he would make of the current viral crisis, the world’s response to it, and the attitude of the plague’s authors, is open to speculation. I don’t think he would have been surprised at any of it – he seems to be a man who would have been hard to startle – and I suspect he would be more willing to forgive the perpetrators than the rest of us will eventually be. He faced bullies and malefactors himself.

But he’s safe now. He can reside in a bronze bust along Toorak Road and in the bookshops of the city. The rest of us still have to keep our distance and hope that the CSL will pump out a vaccine that won’t kill us. And try to be tolerant when the truth about what set it all off finally comes out.

I shall polish my toleration tools in anticipation.


The WordPress Gang

That joke works on several levels.

If you didn’t get it, here’s a tankard of ale and don’t forget to look into the bottom and see what’s down there… pick it up and peer at it…God Bless The King, and stand up straight, you horrible little man…

The WordPress organisation is a marvellous thing. I wish to praise them unreservedly. Before their activity commenced I would have been stifled. Silenced. Prevented from publishing every stray thought that enters my head and leaves by my fingertips. You would have never known how clever I think myself, and neither would I.

As it is, I can launch these guided missives every day at no cost. Few will see them, fewer care – but the very act of putting the ideas down on the screen does good. In these viral lockdown times, more good than you would think.

I live in a bubble of self. You may do too, and I do not judge you for it. But we need to contact other bubbles. In some case we can pop and merge – in others just bounce off each other. No matter which…as long as we can say our piece, state our case, tell our truth…we can stay sane. Others who read what we write may be pitched over the brink of madness, but you get that with most hobbies.